An ACTIVE Approach

With the new marching season off and running at a fast pace, active learning adds confidence and builds skill with new routines or techniques. Listen to instructions with concentration and focus in order to remember the words, then think through each step. An active mind commits the words to memory, then instructs the body to act. With this approach, efficient muscle coordination reduces tension and body fatigue in long rehearsals or drills. Follow these simple steps to learn faster, stay healthier, build skills and have more fun this year!

A for Active

In today’s world of computers, social networking and other media outlets, information arrives constantly, allowing us to passively receive content throughout the day. An active mind is necessary to remember and retain, so try this exercise. Ask a friend to read a simple sentence, then repeat back the words to check for accuracy. You’ll discover that memory improves immediately with practice.

C for Concentrate

Learning to concentrate while distractions occur (for example, crowd noise, weather conditions, etc.) requires practice, so try this exercise. Simultaneously turn on the TV and/or radio as you practice, then ask a friend to adjust the volume up or down to add another level of distraction.

T for Try

Try new scale routines or exercises to challenge and activate your mind in daily practice. Exact repetition without mental concentration allows for errors to occur, and correcting the mistake later is often a more difficult task.

I for Invent

Invent your own exercises to solve musical or technical issues in audition material. Isolate problems, working in small patterns or groups to build confidence.

V for Validate

Validate the previous steps by recording your progress, listening for accuracy in notes and rhythms.

E for Encourage

Encourage yourself with a reward for a great practice session. Positive thoughts encourage good habits to form, so choose a reward that you enjoy … perhaps a bit of social media time or a quick text to a friend.

About the Author

Mary Karen Clardy, professor of flute at the University of North Texas in Denton, appears as a soloist, chamber artist and teacher throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia and South America. A renowned author, she has published more than 10 books from European American Music, Leduc, Schott and Universal Edition. Her students are consistent prizewinners in international competitions and occupy prominent orchestral and faculty positions throughout the world. Visit

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